Microsoft

How to Enable and Find Your Windows Boot Log

When troubleshooting problems with your Windows computer, it is useful to have as much system information as possible. There are several ways to generate information about what is going on underneath the hood of your PC. And if you are experiencing startup issues, one of the most useful things to check is the boot log.

Here’s how to enable the boot log and where to find it on your Windows computer.

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What Is the Windows Boot Log?

The Boot Log or System Initialization Log is a text file that can be generated during your computer’s boot sequence. It contains a list of all the drivers that are loaded during boot, as well as any expected drivers that are not loaded.

The boot log feature is disabled by default. There are two ways to enable or disable the boot log, both of which are explored below. Because you are making changes to an important part of Windows, both methods require you to be signed in as an administrator. If you do not have elevated privileges, you won’t be permitted to enable the boot log.

The text file generated after you enable boot logging can be opened and read in a text editor such as Notepad. Each driver is listed separately, and either labeled as LOADED or NOT_LOADED. The folder path to each driver is also shown.

How to Enable the Boot Log With MSConfig

Using the MSConfig tool, also known as the System Configuration tool, is probably the easiest of the two methods for enabling the boot log.

  1. Open the Run dialog by searching for Run in Windows Search, or by using the Win + R shortcut.
  2. In the Run app, type msconfig and press Return. If prompted, confirm your administrator privileges.
  3. Select the Boot tab in the System Configuration app. The default OS should already be selected.
  4. Check the box next to Boot log in the Boot options section, then click Apply.

You will be prompted to restart your computer. Doing so will immediately generate the boot log. You can also exit without restarting if you need to save and close any unfinished files. In this case, the boot log will be created the next time you restart the PC.

How to Modify Boot Settings With BitLocker Enabled

Enabling the boot log is seen by Windows as editing boot settings. This will be an issue if you have BitLocker Encryption turned on for the disk where the OS is installed. Enabling the boot log and then restarting will activate BitLocker protections.

If BitLocker is enabled, you will see a message when you apply the boot settings changes in MSConfig. The message will remind you that when you restart after making changes to boot settings, your computer will enter recovery mode. You will be required to enter a BitLocker Recovery Key or Recovery Password to continue startup.

If you see the message and do not have a BitLocker recovery key or password, do not proceed with the changes to the boot options. If you don’t know where to find it, our guide will help you locate your BitLocker Recovery Key.

How to Enable the Boot Log With Command Prompt

If you cannot access MSConfig for some reason, you can enable the boot log using Command Prompt (Elevated). This method requires a bit more work but is still simple to do if you follow the steps here.

  1. In Windows Search, type Command Prompt. Right-click on it in the results and select Run as Administrator.
  2. In the Elevated Command Prompt, type bcdedit and press Return. This generates a list of boot details.
  3. Make a note of the Identifier in the Windows Boot Loader section. This will usually be {current}.
  4. To enable the boot log, type the following: bcdedit /set {identifier} bootlog Yes. Replace identifier with the value you noted in the previous step.
  5. Type bcdedit again to check if the boot log has been enabled. It will be shown at the bottom of the list of boot information.
  6. You can then close Command Prompt and restart your PC to generate the log.

Using the Command Prompt can be a little daunting for new Windows users, or if you have never used the tool before. It really isn’t anything to be scared of, as long as you follow the command instructions from a trusted information source like MakeUseOf. If you want to become more familiar with this useful Windows tool, check out our beginner’s guide to the Command Prompt.

Where Is the Windows Boot Log Saved?

The generated boot log file will be called ntbtlog.txt. You can find it at C:\Windows\ntbtlog.txt. If you don’t see the file at that location, ensure you have restarted the computer at least once since you enabled the boot log.

There will only be one version of the file, and each time you start up your computer with boot logging enabled, it will be overwritten. To prevent this, you can move a generated log to your desktop or elsewhere on your computer. This allows you to compare boot logs from different times. You will need to confirm administrator privileges before you can move the boot log out of the Windows folder.

How to Disable the Boot Log

After completing your troubleshooting with the boot log, there is no need to keep it enabled. You can disable the boot log by simply reversing the processes shown above.

  • Run MSConfig and select the Boot tab. Uncheck the box next to Boot log in the Boot options section. Then click Apply.
  • Open an Elevated Command Prompt, and then type: bcdedit /set {identifier} bootlog No. Replacing identifier with the one you used previously, e.g. {current}.

You can use either method to disable the boot log, even if it is a different method from the one you used to enable it.

Troubleshoot Startup Issues With the Windows Boot Log

Enabling the boot log in Windows allows you to see a text list of every driver that is loaded and not loaded during the boot process. This can be very useful for troubleshooting startup issues and also problems with apps and services not working properly after startup.

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